Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you must have heard about Generative AI and the world of potential application it can offer. If you are an artist, you probably read about the threat AI poses to creatives and the questionable ethics of some AI art generators out there too as some companies have been training their AI using copyrighted material.
Wether we agree about AI or not, like it or hate it, the reality is that it's here to stay and sticking our head in the sand hoping it will vanish is probably not the best idea there is. Sticking to our old ways instead of adapting to the moving times never bode well in the past, and there is no reason to drag our feet when we could just take it as an opportunity to learn new skills that actually could benefit our creative business.
It's easy to panic and let the doomsday prophecies eat us alive, but I don't think there is reason to worry too much about Generative AI, at least not yet. I'm all for learning to harness its power so that certain redundant, boring tasks of running my creative business become less daunting.
Generative AI tools aren't going to replace artists
At least not any time soon! There is a reason why big PoD companies like Society6, Redbubble and Teepublic have been introducing measures like membership tiers, extra fees and working behind the scene on algorithms and programs that can detect stolen pictures quicker. Right now AI art is in that grey area when it comes to copyrights and the general consensus at the moment is that you can't legally pass them as your own work since you technically didn't create the image/art. Those images are in theory free of copyrights as they don't have a human creator and I personally think it's going to take a while before clear laws are drafted around AI art and intellectual property ownership. In this light it makes perfect sense to see big players in the PoD industry wanting to play it safe and clamping down on people uploading nothing but AI generated art. The message is clear, for now at least, you are better off creating art using conventional mediums and hold the pen, pencil, paintbrush or stylus yourself.
Harness the power of generative ai in your marketing strategy
Every artist selling on print on demand will tell you that the most daunting and annoying task is marketing and building their brand. The process of creating content for Instagram or you portfolio in a way that stays cohesive with your brand identity can be time consuming. And often newbies tend to take the shortcut of posting their product pictures straight from their shop only to realise that half the Redbubble / Society6 shop owner are doing the same thing and lo and behold, it ends up translating into hashtags feeds full of boring products on grey background that never really stand up in the crowd. Until now, there was only a few solutions to that conundrum :
Remove the background on those pictures and create a composite image using stock photos
Buying some of your products and taking your own pictures (which I think you should still do)
Using Photoshop mockup files to create your own mockups (but everyone is using the same free ones...)
I still stand firm on the fact that your Instagram feeds should have a mix of everything including work in process and stand alone (watermarked) art images, but thanks to generative AI, I think creating composite from scratch using stock photos can safely go away.
A few weeks ago Adobe finally made the Generative fill tools that were previously available only in a beta version of Photoshop available to the general public in their latest version of Photoshop CC.
This means that with a little practice, you can remove the background off your PoD pictures like I have done for every single pictures on this blog post and generate a new background with the help of prompts. For example, the pink retro flower water bottle from Society6 in the picture above had a gray background that I removed and then using the generative fill tool, I wrote "mint and pink retro outdoor cafe" and waited for AI to generate 3 possible choices. If you don't like any of the options generated, you simply click on "Generate" again to get more options until you get one you like. I would say that about 95% of the time it comes with solid usable images, and then there are a few goofy ones thrown in the mix where the AI clearly struggled with things like proportions, shapes and perspective like in this picture :
Watch it closely and you will see where AI is still no match for the human touch. If you only glimpse at it you would think the image is fine and it would probably just do well as social media content. BUT the generative AI did struggle with coming up with something matching the prompt here. On the left of the bottle, the pink chair is clearly behind the mosaic surface the bottle sits on, suggesting said bottle is indeed sitting on a table. Now, look on the right, and notice it struggled keeping with the idea of the mosaic surface being a table. One of the two pink chairs have two legs standing ON the mosaic surface suggesting that the surface is on the ground. AI also had issues figuring out what the cap of my bottle was, the original from Society6 has a handle and with this particular product, AI struggled constantly with what to do about it. In the photo above it simply turned the cap into a planted full of flowers, probably because it wasn't quite sure if the cap was to be in the foreground or background. It also changed the shape of the whole bottle a bit. But yeah, in general, you are going to get some pretty decent results from the Photoshop generative fill tools and that is going to make creating content for your social media marketing a whole lot easier and a whole lot more personalised, the key being in giving the AI tool the right prompt and be very detailed with what you want it to generate.
Generative AI tools have other good applications for your creative business too
A few weeks ago I started taking a Skillshare class about using chat GPT to help you come with a marketing strategy for your business. I am yet to finish that class, so can't really comment on it, but this is just one other way to streamline certain aspect of running a business where generative AI can come in handy. I also received a newsletter from another artist I follow who played around with Dall-E to help him come up with designs ideas. The big idea was to see how the AI art generator could turn a concept around and then use those generated images as reference pictures idea to create his own unique work from scratch. I think every artists, myself included can raise their hand when asked if they ever hit a creative block and struggled to find a usable idea to work with. This is possibly a way were relying on Generative AI can help a lot, you know, by just giving you that tiny nudge of an idea to get you going again.
All in all, I think Generative AI is a tool, and in the right hand it can do great things. In a way it's like what the electric screwdriver is to the regular screwdriver. It makes certain tasks faster but it doesn't do the work on its own and there is still going to be a couple of idiots who are going to poke their eyes out with it, but you can hardly blame the tool for being dangerous. On the ethical ground, I know Photoshop trained their AI with images that already belonged to them so nothing the AI is using to create the prompt comes from a deliberately stolen source like it is the case with some of the free AI art generators out there.